Judith and I met in 1979 at the Methodist church in Durham when we were students and married in 1981. We both served as Methodists local preachers (me for just a short while) in Crawley and Huddersfield. We moved to Cambridge in 1998 and the Anglican church and CofE school were at the heart of our village it seemed right to worship there. Judith became a Reader, then a priest serving in Durham and the north east. We’ve now retired to Harrogate via a short spell in Cumbria where we did all sorts including starting a Messy Church and being part of the diocesan fresh expressions and learning team.
We’ve felt increasingly called to look beyond the church and that our calling is to ‘strive first for the kingdom of God and Gods justice. (Matt 6:33). Micah would do equally well as a mission statement of course: ‘What does the Lord require of you?
To do justice.
To love kindness.
And to walk humbly with your God.
The challenge to take action took us to International Justice Mission (IJM) who we found via 24*7 Prayer. At the time they had a ‘pick a fight’ section on their web site. From the start we felt welcomed by IJM and have learnt much more about their work and the issues of slavery and violence against people in poverty around the world. We signed up as volunteers and champions for Harrogate.
The kingdom of God is surely about living life to the full, freedom and flourishing. It has no place for slavery and violence. The scale of the issue means we must go beyond charity, which might be rescue and recovery for individuals and families. We need a focus on the wider issues of justice and systemic change.
To quote Bishop Desmond Tutu
‘There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.’
The scale of modern slavery is vast. It’s estimated that 50 million people are affected in many locations around the world. It’s illegal, but local criminal justice systems don’t work to stop it. It’s highly profitable and a growing problem. One of the latest strands is forced scamming, which we explore briefly on Sunday 25th. Slavery and trafficking is also a local and UK issue of course, sadly UK is the 3rd largest ‘customer’ for online sexual exploitation of children.
There are many issues we face as communities, the country and the world. We understand that others will focus elsewhere. However we’d urge you look closely at joining with us and IJM to work against slavery:
- There is no room for doubt – slavery has no place in the kingdom of God.
- IJM are succeeding in tackling it. They start working with local partners to tackle individual cases but quickly move on to system-wide change in the areas they work.
- The results have been amazing – up to an 86% reduction in the people affected. Their approach is working in country after country
- IJM need our help, in prayer, in raising awareness and in supporting the scaling up of the work – until all are free.
We’re delighted to be working with Mike Resch, Francis Bryant and others at St Marks. At 6.30 on Sunday 25th Feb the St Marks evening service will focus on the work on IJM. It’s also part of a national IJM Prayer Tour in partnership with 24*7 Prayer.
A first way to learn more and get involved is to come along on Sunday 25th. Everyone is very welcome. We also have the campaign Harrogate Raises a Rescue and we are asking for individuals to support the work of IJM and also for churches to get involved during 2024 perhaps through Lent, a one-off activity or as part of mission giving. Finally, we’re happy to share more with any group or church that wants to learn more.